The Angels believe Shohei Ohtani will hit this year

Shohei Ohtani
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Angels general manager Billy Eppler was on MLB Network Radio today and, not surprisingly, he was asked about the future of Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani, as we all know by now, is nearing the end of an announced three-week rest period in which the Angels are evaluating the status of his ulnar collateral ligament and its responsiveness to PRP injections as an alternative to Tommy John surgery.

Since it is strongly suspected that, if Ohtani does have TJ surgery, he would be subject to a cautious rehabilitation scheduled and would thus not return to the mound until 2020, they can choose to put off that surgery for some time without affecting that timetable. In the meantime, questions remain about Ohtani’s ability to hit.

So: even if he’s not allowed to pitch again this season and even if he needs Tommy John, he’ll likely be a DH at some point. If he has Tommy John it remains to be seen if he could hit at any point in 2019 — my guess would be no, but you never know — but they’d at least be able to get something out of their two-way star.

Of course, events may render all of this far less important than we first thought it would a few weeks back. Anaheim has played poorly of late and the Astros have surged, leaving the once-contending Angels in fourth place in the division, 11.5 games out. As such, the decisions about Ohtani, however consequential for him, seem far less important for the club’s 2018 playoff prospects than they were a short time ago.